The tumultuous ’60s and ’70s were a hot bed for protest music, in large part due to the Vietnam War. Now, to coincide with the release of Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s epic, 18-hour documentary about the war, Spotify and Bank of America have teamed to present covers by modern artists of iconic Vietnam-era songs.
First up: The Lumineers’ take on Bob Dylan’s madcap 1965 tune “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” which EW is excited to exclusively premiere. “There’s a visceral quality to ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ that, even today, you start playing this and it’s this rapid-fire, machine gun delivery that is disorienting,” frontman Wesley Schultz says in a video discussing the cover. “I can’t imagine what it was like to hear that song at the time.”
The Lumineers’ “Subterranean Homesick Blues” is just the first entry in a series that Spotify will add to a playlist through October. Bank of America, Burns’ longtime corporate underwriter, will, in turn, make donations to organizations that support military and civil rights causes. “The Vietnam War helped shape our culture in many ways, from our politics and the divisions we experience today to the arts,” Burns explained in a statement. “I was thrilled that Bank of America agreed to create a program that allows some of our leading artists today to reimagine these iconic songs, and to do so in a way that benefits veterans, civil rights, and other causes that also connect us to that earlier period.”
“Music has always been a bridge across generations helping create a shared experience,” Bank of American vice chairman Anne Finucane said. “Our partnership with Spotify aims to create multi-generational conversations about the themes of Vietnam that still resonate today.”
Music plays a central role in the new Vietnam War documentary. While the modern covers of vintage songs aren’t included in the film itself, plenty of other music is: Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross wrote and performed original material; Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble played classic Vietnamese folk tunes; and Burns secured 120 period recordings from artists including Bob Dylan, the Beatles, and Jimi Hendrix. “Let’s just say, the soundtrack to this series is killer!” Burns told EW in a new interview about the documentary.
The recording of Reznor and Ross’ score is out today, as is the film’s soundtrack. Find those songs, along with the Lumineers’ Dylan cover, at Spotify’s hub. And stay tuned for The Vietnam War, which debuts on PBS this Sunday.